Not-all-candidates’ debate organized with voters in mind

Not-all-candidates’ debate organized with voters in mind

Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and Our Nanaimo using application process to select participants

A Nanaimo all-candidates’ meeting won’t include all candidates, but organizers believe its format will instead provide better value for voters.

A candidates’ forum set for Oct. 15, organized by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and the Our Nanaimo voter engagement group, will include only the candidates who make it through an application process. Prospective participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire by today, Sept. 24, with responses to undergo a blind assessment.

“We want the candidates to have the best experience and we certainly want the people of Nanaimo to have the best tools possible to make up their own mind…” said Fred Pattje, president of Our Nanaimo. “A lot of work and a lot of thought has gone into this process over the last couple of months.”

Coun. Gord Fuller, who is running for re-election, wrote in an e-mail to the chamber today that he wouldn’t be applying to participate in the forum because he feels the application system is intended to favour certain candidates and violates the chamber’s bylaws around staying away from making endorsements.

“I would say they are all-candidates’ meetings, but they aren’t because they are going to vet out ones that they call jokes; the joke campaigners,” he told the News Bulletin. “You get people running and they mean well. They run because they want to make a difference, whether they get in or not is up to the voters, but they should have that opportunity to bring forward their platforms.”

Pattje said Our Nanaimo is “strictly non-partial.” Kim Smythe, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce CEO, said the chamber board unanimously approved the candidates’ forum process and said two reviews from Elections B.C. confirm the format meets guidelines.

“I think the process that we have created here makes this as objective as possible,” Smythe said.

Don Bonner is running for Nanaimo city council and is organizing a series of town halls in October, each including just a handful of candidates. He said he doesn’t think an all-candidates’ meeting with 40 people on the same stage is of much benefit to voters and said he thinks the process being used is a fair way to reduce the field to a more manageable group.

“If 40 people are up there and we each had two minutes to explain who we are and what we’re about, you’re looking at, already, an hour and a half gone,” he said.

Pattje, a former Nanaimo city councillor, has participated in election debates and said if there are a lot of people on the stage, candidates can consider themselves lucky if they have a chance to answer one or two questions before it’s time for closing remarks.

“That doesn’t do anything, and I think it does a lot less for the electorate and the people that attend,” he said.

The Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce/Our Nanaimo candidates’ forum will be held Oct. 15 at the conference centre.

Upcoming forums/debates:

  • North end town hall with council candidates Don Bonner, Tyler Brown, Ben Geselbracht, Erin Hemmens and Jim Turley, Oct. 1, 7 p.m., Nanaimo Hornets RFC rugby clubhouse.
  • Nanaimo South End Community Association candidate meet and greet, Oct. 3, 6-9 p.m., Harbour City Theatre.
  • United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island candidates’ forum on homelessness and affordable housing, Oct. 4, 6:30 p.m., Beban Park social centre.
  • Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association all-candidates’ debate for school trustees, Oct. 4, 6:30 p.m., Dover Bay Secondary School.
  • Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce/Our Nanaimo all-candidates’ fair, Oct. 9, 6-7:45 p.m., Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
  • Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce/Our Nanaimo mayoral candidates’ debate, Oct. 9, 8-9 p.m., Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
  • Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce/Our Nanaimo council candidates’ forum, Oct. 15, 6-9 p.m., Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

-with files from Nicholas Pescod/The News Bulletin

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